Norco Fluid FS1 29er (2018) review£1,500.00

Not as sorted as it looks on paper

BikeRadar score3.5/5

Norco’s Fluid is a naturally smooth and efficient cruiser with a good spec, but its soft-feeling frame and shorter, steeper geometry hold it back when trails get harder.

Norco Fluid FS1 29er frame

Norco’s four-bar ART suspension platform is smooth and neutral in feel, but watch out for loosening pivot and shock bolts
Norco’s four-bar ART suspension platform is smooth and neutral in feel, but watch out for loosening pivot and shock bolts

The curvy frame gets an up-to-date tapered head tube, but the reach is very short by modern standards (425mm on the Large) and the tall seat tube (490mm) will likely rule out sizing-up to go longer.

While the Boost-width (148mm) back-end increases tyre clearance slightly, it uses a quick-release rather than bolt-through axle, which leaves it flexy. All cables are routed externally.

Norco Fluid FS1 29er kit

A RockShox Recon RL fork and WTB i29 rims on Novatec hubs are the staple rolling-chassis gear for this test, and that’s fine by me.

The Maxxis Forekaster tyres are good all-rounders too. While the RockShox Monarch shock is an older, non-metric unit, it works fine, and you get a lockout lever for smooth sections.

Norco has specced a small 30-tooth chainring up front and a wide-range 11-46t rear cassette to offset the effect of the larger-diameter 29in wheels. The Samox crank arms are 1cm longer than normal, which means lots of unnecessary ground contact (the pedals themselves are still 175mm from the bottom bracket).

You get an 11-speed Shimano SLX shifter and rear mech, but these gains are offset by lower-quality Alivio brakes. The dropper seatpost is a bonus, though.

Norco Fluid FS1 29er ride

The Fluid is available in a choice of three wheel/tyre sizes (29x2.35in, 27.5x2.35in and 27.5x2.8in). Whichever you go for, rear travel stays the same (120mm). The 29er wheels suit its distance/cross-country-orientated character best, adding an easy roll over rougher sections that helps you sustain speed.

While the Forekaster tyres are only basic-spec versions, they offer a good balance of speed, grip and trail feel on the broad rims (29mm, internal). They’re easy to turn tubeless too, to amplify that smoothness and avoid punctures.

Once you’ve stoked up the speed through the slick-shifting gears, the Norco bowls along well, with the four-bar linkage back end striking a good balance between countering pedalling bounce and letting the rear wheel track the ground.

The large Fluid is supposed to come with a 75mm stem, which, combined with the steep 70-degree head angle, will stop the front wheel flopping about on climbs and make it easier to tweak round trees at lower speeds.

If you’re used to older geometry, the Norco will feel natural. My bike actually came with a 55mm stem, which made the steering faster-reacting when traction did slip.

The Fluid’s short reach and steep head angle make it more traditionally cross-country/trail in character
The Fluid’s short reach and steep head angle make it more traditionally cross-country/trail in character

That steep head angle means the Norco is not as stable as other bikes, though, and, even with a 29in front wheel and wide bar (760mm), it’s more likely to twitch off-line.

While the Boost fork does its best, the flexy frame struggles to stick up for itself if rocks and roots start bullying the front wheel. The back end isn’t very rigid under load either. This was compounded by the rear pivots and shock bolts shaking themselves loose a couple of times during testing.

Even with the dropper to help you get your weight back, the short 425mm reach cramps your ability to move around between the wheels (especially when combined with the shorter stem on our bike), reduces baseline stability and means the Fluid feels much less planted and surefooted when things get fast and loose.

The Alivio brakes are numb in feel, and the push-on grips won’t stay stuck on for long either. That all combines to produce a bike that’s perfectly happy rolling smoothly along trails or tacking through tight, woodsy singletrack, reducing fatigue and flattering fitness as it goes, but gets nervous if you point it over edges and down cheeky lines. It’s definitely more blue/red than red/black, in terms of trail-centre comfort zones.

This article was originally published in Mountain Biking UK magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.

Guy Kesteven

Freelance Writer, UK
Guy started filling his brain with cycle stats and steaming up bike shop windows back in 1980. He worked the other side of those windows from '89 while getting a degree in “describing broken things covered in mud" (archaeology). Dug historical holes in the ground through the early '90s, then became a pro bike tester in '97. Guy has ridden thousands of bikes and even more components the world over since then and can remember them all in vivid, haunting detail. Can't remember where the car keys are, though.
  • Age: 45
  • Height: 180cm / 5' 11"
  • Weight: 68kg / 150lb
  • Waist: 76cm / 30in
  • Chest: 91cm / 36in
  • Discipline: Strict sadomasochist
  • Preferred Terrain: Technical off-piste singletrack and twisted back roads. Up, down, along — so long as it's faster than the last time he did it he's happy.
  • Current Bikes: An ever changing herd of test machines from Tri bikes to fat bikes and everything in between.
  • Dream Bike: His Nicolai Helius AM custom tandem
  • Beer of Choice: Theakston's Old Peculier (not Peculiar)
  • Location: Yorkshire, UK

Related Articles

Back to top